And Then I Read: MOOMIN Volume Six

While I grew up with the ‘Moomin” series of childrens’ novels by Tove Jansson, I never learned of the comic strip of the characters that ran for many years in British newspapers (and probably elsewhere) until just a few years ago. Drawn & Quarterly has reprinted those strips by Tove in the first five volumes of MOOMIN, and is now continuing the the strip as written as drawn after her by her brother Lars, who actually had a much longer run on the strip: 15 years.

Lars Jansson sounds like quite a remarkable person. In the afterword about him, Juhani Tolvanen says, “Tove Jansson’s kid brother—twelve years her junior—was a writer, translator, gold-miner, aerial photographer, model for Snufkin, and, finally and most famously, a cartoonist.” The article goes on to say that Lars was involved in the strip from the beginning as translator. When Tove tired of writing the strip, he began writing them for her, and when she wanted to give up the drawing as well, Lars, who had never been an artist, gave himself a crash course in drawing Moomins, and in a few months was able to take over the strip entirely!

And I think he did quite well with it. I have to give Tove the edge in more imaginative whimsy and moments of poetic beauty, but Lars’ stories are often funny and his take on the characters is very true to his sister’s vision. There are four strips reprinted here, all in dailies, and they tend to focus on two of the Moomin clan mostly, which made for easier drawing I’d bet. Two stories focus on young Moomin with a magic lamp, and trying to stop a railway from being built in their valley. Two others feature Moominpappa mixed up with a society of spies, and as an honorary chairman of a society to prevent cruelty to animals. The latter has him freeing all the animals from a circus, with predictably funny results.

These are gentle stories; no one gets hurt, everyone is polite, even the policemen, and the Moomin clan bumbles through all kinds of trouble often without even realizing what they’ve done wrong. I find it appealing, though not as good as the “Moomin” novels. Still well worth a read and recommended.

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